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2017 NEKST Abstracts

Ji-Yoon An, University of Cambridge

All About the Korean Mother: Depictions of Extreme Motherhood in Korean Cinema

"The mother has always held an exceptionally sentimental image in Korean society, associated with ideas of love, strength, and eternal sacrifice. Nostalgic productions on the mother have proven popular in Korean film history. However, in recent years, there has been a strand of films that have boldly portrayed motherhood in a darker light. Usually in the genre of thrillers, these films share a similar narrative in which the protagonist is a mother whose child is abducted, abused, or killed. The narrative trajectory follows the mother’s desperate attempt to either save or avenge the child, through which maternal sentiments are revealed to be powerful enough to subvert both law and order. While these thrillers incorporate and take as their framework the sacrificial and life-saving characteristics of the traditional Korean mother, these mothers are portrayed as dark characters with excessive, hysterical, and even murderous tendencies. This paper examines ‘mother thrillers,’ exploring the reasons behind the popularity of this sub-genre and the commentary that such films offer on contemporary social issues surrounding the Korean mother. Bong Joon-ho’s <Mother> (2009) is analysed as a representative of the genre.

Before investigating contemporary mother thrillers, a point of comparison is offered by examining two films from 1985: Im Kwon-taek’s <Gilsoddeum> and Park Chul-soo’s <Woman Requiem>. <Gilsoddeum> is pioneering in its depiction of a mother’s radical actions, while <Woman Requiem>’s narrative of a mother’s vengeance secures its position as one of the earliest films that can be identified as a Korean mother thriller."

Yeon-Ju Bae, University of Michigan

Sound and Authority: Sound Meditations in Two Korean Buddhist Temples

This paper explores the participant framework of sound meditations and the creation of authority in two Korean Buddhist sects. Drawing on two sound meditation cases that I observed in 2015 and 2016, I argue that different semiotic configurations of authority in these sound meditations are emblematic of the historical conditions in which the two sects are located. After Japanese occupation ended in 1945, the major Korean Buddhist sect was bifurcated into two sects, one is composed of unmarried monks and the other of married ones. At the temple of the unmarried that I studied, the master monk taught lay participants how to produce vowel sounds for meditation and how each vowel can iconize each person’s state of mind, after which all the participants including the monk himself produced sounds collectively by the monk’s guidance. On the other hand, at the temple of the married, the monk repeated a mantra for meditation and forbade lay believers’ imitating him, but only instructed them to receive a spiritual energy that his mantra indexes so as to be healed. Therefore, in my ethnographic cases, while the unmarried monk creates a teacher-student relationship with lay people, the married monk forms a spiritual doctor-patient relationship with his followers. By investigating the differential creation of the meaning of sound and the relationship between monks and participants, this paper illustrates how broader historical and political conflicts in the modern Korean society are reflected and regenerated by concrete interpersonal practice in Korean Buddhist meditations

Cody Black, Duke University

One of These Nights I’ll See You Again: Vocality, Alternative Mourning, and Affective Neoliberalism in Post-Sewol Korea

Despite episodic performances of national mourning towards the Sewol disaster in contemporary South Korea, the latent everyday practices of cultural amnesia towards the disaster—often consciously prompted by official or governmental discourse—highlights a growing social antipathy towards public performances of affect. Drawing from fieldwork on media and precarity in post-Sewol Korea, I use this paper to discuss the prevalence of alternative, privatized sites for affective performance—particularly that of mourning—which serve as an alterity against the increased silencing of public affect prompted within neoliberalized Korea. Concentrating on responses to “7 월 7일 (One of These Nights)” by Red Velvet—a K-Pop track associated with Sewol solely through symbolic fan interpretation—I suggest textual representations of crying (ㅠ/ㅜ) transcends a purely textually communicative realm, prompting the presence of silent transactive orality amongst a mourning user community (Ochoa-Gautier 2014, Soffer 2010, Urban 1988). By observing that spaces of mourning within silent orality tend to be experienced as extension of the orally performed voice, I parallel diverging phenomenological relationalities to voice between a modernity within the “clean” performed Korean Christian voice (Harkness 2014) and a hypermodernity within the “perfected” produced K-Pop voice. I posit that deviations in intimate listening practices between the non-mediated and mediated Korean voice serve as social indexes for larger social and temporal shifts regarding stances towards affective performance. From this, I suggest participating in alternative mourning sites defined by dense layers of vocal techno-mediation found in K-Pop symptomatically parallels the experiences of socially mediated affective disjuncture and isolation within post-Sewol everyday life.

Eunsung Cho, Columbia University

The Thread of Juche: Negotiating Socialism and Nationalism through Science in North Korea

My dissertation investigates the construction of nationalist socialism in North Korea through scientific discourse during the 1950s and 60s, looking at the process of building North Korea as a modern nation-state. One important aspect of this process is the discourse surrounding vinalon, a synthetic fiber developed by North Korea. Unlike nylon, which uses oil as the main raw material, vinalon uses locally mined anthracite and limestone as the main raw materials. The success story of vinalon’s industrial production, propagated by Kim Il Sung’s political allies, led to the fusing of socialism and nationalism into nationalist socialism, known as the Juche socialism, meaning the socialism of “self-reliance.” I argue that a scientific discourse based on the success of vinalon facilitated the creation of the Juche socialism. To discover how scientists and technicians were able to carve out space for the formulation of the Juche idea, I will examine the historical background of the so-called Juche fiber, vinalon, in relation to North Korea’s desire to become an independent polity distinct from the socialist bloc, domestic political struggles for power, as well as the affinity with the progressive doctrine and the commitment to science in socialism and nationalism. I attempt to interpret the product between science and society, vinalon as a thread that played a pivotal role in weaving the Juche discourse into North Korean society. In so doing, I locate North Korea within an emerging circuit of global socialism, highlighting how political and technological elements co-constituted the production of vinalon.

Hye Eun Choi, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Munye-bu and Korean Record Production in the 1930s 

The introduction of Western and Japanese music led to profound changes in the music of Korea from the turn of the 20th century. As competition intensified between the major transnational record companies and smaller ones based in Japan, Korean recorded music became increasingly hybridized beginning in the late 1920s. In the Korean record market, munye-bu (A&R, or artists and repertoire departments in record companies) made most artistic and executive decisions concerning the style and content of sound production. As such, they were critical for keeping record companies competitive in Korea. Rather than Japanese or other foreign managers, Koreans were in charge of munye-bu since they were best equipped to respond accurately to Korean music consumers’ changing preferences and desires. In this paper, I contend that record companies allowed their munye-bu to function autonomously from the A&R divisions of their Japanese headquarters, which was a rational business decision for producing successful records in Korea. I further argue that the Korean music professionals in munye-bu, in cooperation with their Japanese colleagues, participated directly in producing locally inflected popular music in various global genres, almost contemporaneously with popular music in Japan.

Kunisuke Hirano, University of Michigan

An Alternative Way to be Ethnic Korean? An Ethnographic Case Study at Korea International School in Japan

This paper examines the shifting turn of identity among ethnic Koreans through educational practices in contemporary Japan. As an ethnic minority in Japanese society, Koreans have built up proprietary school systems which cover primary to tertiary education. Based on a case study of Korea International School (koria kokusai gakuen, or KIS), a newly built 6-year international secondary school by ethnic Koreans in Osaka, this paper examines the construction of “alternativeness” in the context of Korean identity construction in Japan. This paper proposes that the concept of “being alternative” in Korean education in Japan is heavily influenced by global education trends. KIS advocates producing "trans-border persons" (ekkyôjin or 세계인) who are not confined to race, ethnicity, gender, or country of origin. While teaching in three languages (with the focus on Korean and English) and producing trans-border persons are unique in the context of Korean schools in Japan, their ideal student figure seemingly coincides with trilingual global elites. However, some teachers express the desire to challenge the culture of Euro-American international schools in Japan. Based on my school visit in summer 2016 as well as analysis of second-hand literature, I argue that KIS illustrates the negotiation for ethnic Koreans in Japan aligning with global educational trends and local agency. Focusing on their curriculum and interviews with teachers, this paper aims to locate KIS in the historical context of Korean schools in Japan as well as examining the role of educational achievement as a core site of Korean identity formation.

Myungho Hyun, New York University

1920s Oil Industry and Royal Dutch/Shell’s Korean Oil Installation Strike of September 1928

My chapter examines the oil storage strike of September 1928 at Munp’yeong in colonial northeast Korea and discusses the historical significance of a trade union’s design of less precarious employment through a demand of new wage forms. The chapter critically intervenes in the nationalist and Euro-centric approaches of existing socio-economic historians of the wage by analytically focusing on three distinctive historical contexts: firstly, it identifies the main cause of the labor strike, not as national conflict between Japanese supervisors and Korean workers, but as the global market trends of 1920s oil industry to which the managers of the oil storage tried to assimilate their local sales. Secondly, unlike European and Japanese states at this time, the Japanese colonial state did not grant voting rights and provided little social security benefits for colonial working classes. This absence unwittingly gave a rise to the trade unionism that played a decisive role in the formation of a subsistence economy and political consciousness for its membership. Thirdly, through newly permitted circulation of mass media, the colonial trade union learnt the strategies of Western labor movement and merged them with traditional ways of struggle. The main argument of the chapter is that the wage strike was the confluence of the three historical trajectories, and this in its own way establishes a more general thesis that the reciprocity between money wage occupying an ever greater lot in working-class income and precarious employment becoming a tool of more rational management characterizes modern wage system.

Minwoo Jung, University of Southern California

World Society in Action: Mobilizing the International in South Korean LGBT Activism

While social scientists have long examined the impact of global order on domestic politics, this scholarship has yet to discuss the varied ways in which the international norms operate in an interactive environment that requires meaning construction, which allows actors to make sense of experiences and to arrive at shared understandings and action. In this paper, I propose an alternative approach of world society in interaction to extend this scholarship by synthesizing the context-specific meaning construction processes and the notion of political fields to analyze how local actors embedded in heterogeneous political fields make use of international norms in a variety of ways, thereby alter and reconstruct the very meaning of world society. To make this claim, I use qualitative analysis combining ethnography and in-depth interviews to explain how local activists embedded in fragmented political fields in South Korean LGBT activism respond differently to the discourses and practices of international advocacy work as they navigate the striking contradiction between South Korea’s state-led promotion of international reputation as a human rights advocate and its domestic lack of implementation of international norms. I argue that the ways in which local actors make use of international norms vary for different political fields where they share different understandings of appropriate styles of action: boundaries, directions, and distances of international advocacy work. In doing so, this paper highlights how the very meanings of international advocacy work are radically negotiated and challenged as local actors face inherent tensions, conflicts, and dilemmas in translating international norms.

Kyoungmi Kim, Seoul National University

Erotic Imagination in the Poetry of Joung Hyunjong, as Revealed in his Translations of Pablo Neruda

Known as one of the “Hanguel Generation”, Joung Hyunjong(1939~) is praised for his approach to the internality of “things,” which distinguished him from the previous generation and established him as a representative figure of 1960s modernism. The previous research on his poetry can be divided into (1) research on essential motifs of his poetry, (2) research on the development of his poetry and (3) research on the rhetorical features of his poems. However, there are few comparative studies which examine the relationships of influence in his poetry. One significant influence was the poetry of Pablo Neruda, which Joung Hyunjong translated more extensively than experts of Spanish and Central and South American literature, although he knew no Spanish. Joung Hyunjong found Eroticism to be the basis of Pablo Neruda’s poetry, and many researchers consider erotic imagination to be an essential feature in Joung Hyunjong’s poetry. Here Eroticism refers to the momentary identification of the self with the other as described by Georges Bataille. In Joung Hyunjong’s poems, this eroticism is expressed as “Twilight poetics,” a poetics of the space between light and dark, life and death, self and other. Joung Hyunjung found in Neruda’s poetry the technique of “embodiment”— a physical connection with “things” or the other, lovers, miners, nature and so on—as a means of actualizing this “Twilight poetics.” Given this influence, the erotic imaginary in Joung Hyunjong’s poetry can be understood as an aesthetic feature that links the concerns of his early existential explorations and his later ecological imagery.

So Hye Kim, University of Chicago

The Divided Nation and Korean Diasporic Filmmakers’ Bittersweet Return

"This paper explores the notions of home, homeland, and homecoming in Korean diaspora films. By following Korean diasporic filmmakers’ cinematic journey between the divided homeland and host country, it questions how the medium of film delivers the experience of homecoming. To be specific, this paper deals with works by ethnic Korean filmmakers active in Japan that either feature the issue of homecoming or were produced in South Korea. My analysis centers upon two second-generation Korean residents in Japan—one male and one female—and relatively established directors in Japan, namely, Sai Yoichi and Yang Yong-hi. I focus on Blood and Bones (2004) and Soo (2007) by the former and the documentaries Dear Pyongyang (2005) and Sona, the Other Myself (2010) as well as Our Homeland (2012), a feature film, by the latter. My main concern in this paper revolves around the directors’ unstable and shifting positions between the host country, Japan, the home country, divided Korea, and spectatorship in both countries. On the basis of historical contextualization, I comparatively explore the relationships among representations, audience reactions, generations, and gender.

By offering a nuanced understanding of the implications of the cinematic return of Korean diaspora, this paper aims to show that different strands of collective memories of the twentieth-century East Asia intersect, interfuse, and come into tension in the region, as well as to contribute to a broader understanding of Korean cinema by situating Korean diaspora films and their spectatorship in the larger context of East Asia."

Youn Soo Kim, Binghamton University

Counter-memories of the Korean War: The State, Enemy, and Ideologies in Mongsil ŏnni

Kwŏn Chŏng-saeng’s youth novel Mongsil ŏnni (Sister Mongsil, 1984) is about a young girl’s survival through one of the harshest periods in Korean history. This novel has been regarded by literary scholars including Dafna Zur as a pathbreaking work that challenged the anticommunist rhetoric fostered by the South Korean state after the Korean War. This paper looks at how the novel challenges the anticommunist metanarrative of the state, analyzing the novel as a “counter-memory” produced in the Armistice system following Susie Jie Young Kim’s studies on postwar literature and cinema. In particular, I examine how Mongsil ŏnni breaks taboos of the post-1945 South Korean society by analyzing the depictions of enemy and social outcasts. Based on Douglas Robinson’s concepts of the dominant Other and the antagonistic Other, I focus on the main character Mongsil’s relationships with the enemy and the social outcasts. Going beyond simple engagement with the enemy North Korean soldiers (“Inmin’gun”), Mongsil forges, though ephemerally, friendships and feelings of kinship with them. Furthermore, this novel makes visible the outcasts of the South Korean society in the years after the Korean War. Mongsil establishes relationships of protection—protecting and being protected—with multi-racial babies and “western princesses” (“yanggongju”), members of the post-war South Korean society that highlight its negative aspects. Ultimately, I argue that Mongsil ŏnni challenged the anticommunist metanarrative of the state by breaking taboos as depicted in episodes illustrating Mongsil’s relationship with the enemy and social outcasts.

Lina Koleilat, The Australian National University

Catholic Rituals of Protest and Dissent in Contemporary South Korea

Based on participant observation conducted in South Korea between 2013 and 2015, I analyze in this paper how a Catholic community have been using religious rituals in order to transform spaces of contention into spaces of dissent and resistance to the construction of a new military naval base in a small coastal village on Jeju Island. In my analysis, I focus on three main rituals: the one hundred bows, the daily mass held at the gates of the construction site of the military base, and thirdly the special Easter religious ritual held on yearly basis. Through this Catholic community’s political imagination these elaborate Catholic rituals are expressions of protest placed around the site of construction of the naval base to convert the projected military space into a spiritual transformative space. I highlight the specific Catholic religious forms of resistance to military bases which exist in a wider context of political engagement of villagers, activists, NGOs and other religious groups resisting the construction of the military naval base since 2007. I articulate the relevance of religious rituals as forms of political dissent, and elaborate on how these religious rituals challenge the state’s power and authority in the context of the anti-base movement in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea.

Alex Lee, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dirty Work, Glamorous Migrant: South Korean Flight Attendants and the Reproduction of Gender, Racial, and National Hierarchies

Against the backdrop of late capitalism’s globalized knowledge economy and intimate labor, this paper will examine the tension of how South Korean flight attendants negotiate their simultaneous status as globetrotting, glamorous “elites,” on the one hand, and itinerant, glamorized, service working migrants, on the other. Foregrounding South Korean flight attendants as “model minority migrants” within broader migration studies is analytical fruitful. Doing so troubles what Catrin Lundstrom describes as the field’s tendency to focus largely on the disadvantages of migration (i.e., maintaining a false binary between supposed real elites and oppressed migrants) rather than the unearned privileges embedded within it, particularly the central yet implicit roles of race and whiteness. Juxtaposing the figure of the South Korean flight attendant against that of more familiar racialized, sexualized, and gendered migrants (i.e., domestic, care, or sex workers), however, unsettles this problematic dichotomy. It does so by revealing what effects eliding certain groups within migration studies’ conventional elite-migrant framework may have on other, less privileged groups. Specifically, due to their own vexed class, gender, racial, and national statuses, this paper will argue that South Korean flight attendants inadvertently reproduce hegemonic gender, racial, and national hierarchies in their attempt to disavow any resemblance (and potential solidarity) with less desirable migrants. Consequently, the popularity of the flight attendant job in Asia, a phenomenon unrecognized yet emblematic of the neoliberal, pink collar youth movement occurring across the Global South, signals new and troubling configurations of global migrant labor hierarchies under the gloss of “superior” service.

Elizabeth Lee, New York University

Goryeo Potters and Their Partners: The Liao Influence in Goryeo Celadon Ewers

In 1123, the statesman Xu Jing (1093-1155) spent about one month in the capital of Goryeo (918-1392) as part of a delegation sent by the ill-fated Song Huizong (r. 1100-1125). The Xuanhe fengshi Gaoli tujing (Illustrated Account of the Embassy to Goryeo in the Xuanhe Era), Xu’s record of that trip, provides us with firsthand accounts of the people, sites, and objects of twelfth-century Gaeseong. Included in his chapter on common people is a note on the employment of a significant number of Liao craftsmen in the royal court. Recently, Xu’s Illustrated Account has been cited by many scholars who point to the presence of northern steppe culture in Goryeo, focusing on the exchange of Buddhist documents, religious ephemera, and various metal wares. Building on this body of work that deals with tributary gifts and official trade conducted by clerics and envoys, the current paper seeks to identify and complicate the question of Khitan influence on Goryeo material culture. First, the paper will limn the complex historical and socio-political context of the Liao craftsman’s migration and subsequent reception in Goryeo. The discussion will then turn briefly to the identity, location and social status of celadon potters. Through an analysis of handle types and vessel forms featured in Liao and Goryeo celadons, it will be shown that the visual vocabulary and skills of foreign artisans altered Goryeo ceramics at the most fundamental level of craft and manufacture as well as at the more abstract stage of an object’s conception.

Joo Young Lee, University of Michigan

Beyond the Frames: The Racial Formation of Black Korean Orphans in Print Media and Photographs 

"The 1953 Refugee Relief Act initiated massive Korean adoption of war orphans and mixed-race children after the Korean War. Eleana Kim and Jodi Kim published critical works discussing the geopolitics of transnational adoption as an aftermath of U.S. militarization. Indebted to their theorization, my project navigates the racialization of Black Korean adoptees represented in Korean and American photographs and documentary films from 1953 to 1988. My project on representations of these populations in media through a transnational perspective is a research topic that has never been pursued.

To trace transnational adoption of Black Koreans, I ask the following questions. Why did these countries legalize and even promote transnational adoption? How was it told in media? How were Black Koreans racially marked and categorized when mixed-race identity was not legally recognized until the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling?

As a cultural studies project, I delve into the public media such as Daehan News and promotional photographs from Holt International. My research uncovered that the United States was able to reproduce its national image as the savior of the world through the depiction of transnational adoption in newsreels and military photographs. While the U.S. performed as the father of Korea through transnational adoption, the nation strived to define its national identity based on whiteness. Thus, the adoption of Black Koreans complicates the notion of racialized citizenship. Korean and U.S. public and military media will give us a bird’s eye view to crystalize a larger political scheme behind transnational adoption."

Sumin Myung, Johns Hopkins University

Equivocal Expertise: A Scientist’s Journey in the Making of Modern Forestry in South Korea

In many postcolonial nation-states, it has been well known that forest is one of the key sites, where scientific expertise, the state, and traveling knowledge have met and enacted the governmentalization of nature and society, or as some scholars call “environmentality.” Modern environmentality lays the infrastructural, intellectual, and ethical ground for intervening in contemporary ecological, social, and political matters. What has drawn less attention, however, are the capricious and even contradictory ways in which environmentality has emerged among distinct actors and in different contexts and scales. Taking cues from recent strands in anthropology, environmental history, and science & technology studies (STS), this paper attempts to reinterpret the life of a prominent scientist, Dr. Hyun Shin-kyu (born in 1911), who has been considered as an “institution builder” of modern forestry in South Korea. Rather than chronologically situating his career in the turbulent history of Korea from the Japanese colonial regime to the militant developmental regime in the 1960s and 1970s, it focuses on the multifaceted ways in which he intervened in or interacted with different human and non-human “bodies,” such as trees, forest landscapes, political society, the state, and international institutions across time and scale. Tentatively conceptualizing this productive process as “equivocal expertise,” the paper highlights the cacophonous and volatile nature of the making of scientific expertise in colonial and postcolonial forestry, and tries to understand how it constituted or hindered the politics of environmentality in South Korea.

Sangmee Oh, UCLA

From Colonial to International: American knowledge construction on Korean history 1930-50s

"Establishment of Korean Studies in the United States has been generally understood as the product of Cold War politics, without properly addressing the influence of the knowledge accumulated prior to the World War Ⅱ. However, without looking at the influence of past knowledge, we may miss a significant perspective that it was built on previous knowledge where Imperialist and Orientalist view was embedded. This calls for a new approach which looks at the longer process of knowledge construction from the prewar period.

This paper examines how Korean Studies in the United States in 1950s were based on previous knowledge which was heavily influenced by Japanese colonial scholarship and American missionaries’ descendants’ accounts from 1930s. Through examination of articles, books and dissertations written by Japanese scholars such as Inaba Iwakichi, American intellectuals such as George M. McCune, as well as postwar scholars such as Hatada Takashi and Edwin O. Reischauer, I will argue that historical narratives on Korea created by colonial scholarship and American missionaries, such as how Korea failed to modernize, how Korea has been historically static, or other themes that were imbued with imperialist ideology, were transmitted to the postwar scholarship, and became major themes under the Cold War politics, in which they were used in supporting the modernization theory. Taking Foucault’s idea of discontinuity, I will focus on how the themes on Korean history continued to be influential to postwar scholarship, while, serving a different function within the different set of power politics."

Young Sun Park, University of Southern California

From Fostering to Education: Cultivating Body and Soul at Modern Orphanages

"This paper is a chapter of my dissertation, Rescue and Regulation: A History of Undesirable Children in Korea, 1884-1961, which investigates the history of marginalized Korean children who became targeted for institutionalization, welfare, and even transnational adoption. In this chapter, I explore the modern origins and developments of Korean orphanages, as well as the historical roots of Korean exclusion of ""undesirable"" children from society.

From 1884 Korean society witnessed the first orphanages run by foreign Christians as not only a modern but also as a civilizing institution. In 1904, Koreans created their first native orphanage. Japan, which annexed Korea in 1910, also understood the implications of protecting orphans. The colonial government took over the first orphanage already run by Koreans and turned it into the state-orphanage. As the takeover shows, there was a development of modern child welfare. The origins of Korean orphanages suggest how Koreans encountered modernity through the interaction between Western Christian missionaries, Japanese, and Koreans.

I argue that the earlier development of modern child welfare accompanied with the education of orphans, which meant saving children both physically and spiritually. Modern child protection in Korea evolved in a direction to create useful future adult citizens, either in colonial or national subject. The “good Samaritans” attempted to regulate children in need by segregating them from society, institutionalizing them, and disciplining them, especially with an emphasis on education of practical courses. The segregation and discipline of undesirable children demonstrates the dual approaches to orphans: rescue and regulation."

Jihyun Shin, University of British Columbia

The Remaking of Korean Men: Rationalizing the Pursuit of Individual Money-Making during the Park Chung Hee Era, 1961-1979

Previous studies on the capitalist development and rapid industrialization of modern South Korea especially focus on how the Park Chung Hee government (1961-79) mobilized the population, utilized the Cold War structure, and formed an effective state-chaebol alliance to explain how South Korea successfully adopted a capitalist economic system. However, such so-called “developmental state” discourse does not answer the question of how South Korean individuals at the bottom transformed into highly capitalist individuals who consider pursuit of wealth as one of the most important and normative values in life. This paper will address the change in people’s view on the pursuit of money in modern South Korea. In order to do so, this paper will be looking at ego-documents such as diaries and autobiographical writings along with mass media materials such as radio transcripts and newspaper articles from the 1960s and 70s to argue that the pursuit of individual money-making was popularized by mass media as not only necessary but normative, which made South Korean people to be reborn as profit-seeking capitalist individuals. An individual who successfully justifies earning money, takes advantage of any opportunity, manifests capitalist rationality in doing businesses, and sees the romantic value in attaining ever increasing profit was depicted normal and at the same time ideal, patriotic, and masculine. This analysis will shed light on how South Korean individuals came to rationalize the pursuit of money-making, which made the “Miracle on the Han River” possible.

Thomas Stock, UCLA

Under Attack: Fraternal Criticism and the Development of North Korean Ideology 

Among scholars, there exists a clear tendency to highlight the exceptionality of North Korean thought. Scholarship typically stresses such facets as Confucianism, nationalism, and heterodoxy vis-à-vis Marxism. In other words, North Korean ideology is examined through a local lens that focuses on the indigenous aspects. The following study challenges these localized readings of North Korean ideology, shifting our attention to North Korean ideology’s global aspects. Focusing on the 1960s, a time during which North Korea began to openly challenge Soviet orthodoxy, this study, through the use of East German archival materials, attempts to generate a historical and comparative understanding of North Korean ideological developments. It may be tempting to read these developments as part of an inevitable course, rooted in some historical legacy or postcolonial mindset, but this is far too simplistic. Changes in North Korean ideology had more to do with the immediate present than the long gone past. They were structured temporally as well as spatially. That is, North Korea could not simply step outside of its immediate world. To the contrary, in order to remain relevant, North Korea embedded itself in this world. Although “fraternal” socialist states often criticized North Korea, they nonetheless shared much with the country, ideologically speaking. Despite the differences, there was no fundamental divide between North Korean and other socialist states’ ideologies in the years after Stalin. Ideological differences, rather, were interpretative struggles grounded in a common language—they were discursive. Thus, North Korean ideological developments actually indicate a global interconnectedness, not isolation.

Matthew Vanvolkenburg, University of Washington

The 1970 and 1975 crackdowns on marijuana in Korea: Drug suppression, social purification, and the ROK-US Alliance

In 1975, at the height of authoritarian repression, the Yusin state suppressed youth culture in the name of social purification by censoring rock and folk music and arresting hundreds of young people, particularly musicians, for smoking marijuana. This marijuana crackdown has been overlooked in the historiography of Yusin, and has mainly appeared in popular music histories, which portray it as an attack on youth culture. The only article to focus on it specifically suggests the Yusin state hoped to link drug culture to student protesters in order to gain public support for suppression of anti-Yusin demonstrations. Both overlook a previous marijuana scare in 1970 which was concocted to justify making marijuana illegal and obscure the fact this was being done at the behest of US military authorities after a drug-related murder by US soldiers. The ROK’s cooperation in this regard was most certainly related to the withdrawal of 20,000 US troops under the Nixon Doctrine. By 1975 marijuana use had spread from US military camp towns to become associated with youth culture, which the media, and even Park Chung-hee himself, decried as decadent and disruptive. These crackdowns can thus provide a new lens through which to view the evolution of US-ROK relations in the 1970s. Ironically, the American military presence in Korea proved to be both the source of the rock music and youth culture that Park Chung-hee railed against and, through the law it requested to control its marijuana-smoking soldiers, a means to silence that music and culture.

Sungik Yang, Harvard University

An Old Right in New Bottles: The Historiography of the South Korean New Right

Recent domestic history textbook disputes have placed the spotlight on the politicization of Korean history in South Korea. This paper examines the historiography of one of the prime movers behind the textbook reform, the New Right, which has sparked controversy in South Korea for its unconventional readings of Korean history. I focus on New Right reinterpretations of the colonial period, the Korean War, and the Syngman Rhee presidency. I highlight its attempt at a postnationalist and postmodern reading of modern Korean history and discuss whether it is a true break from past nationalist historiography or just a vehicle for political rejuvenation of Korean conservatism. I also introduce the common perceptions and criticisms and ultimately raise the question of whether the New Right is indeed a “new” conservative movement, whether historiographically or politically.

Chaeyeong Yoo, Seoul National University

A Study of Kim Jong Sam’s Poetry: Writing between the Musical World and Reality 

"The study considers the mutually generative relationship between music and subject in Kim, Jong Sam’s poetry. By using the psychoanalytic frame, this study examines the way in which the musical compulsion influences the autobiographical compulsion and aims to attain a wider perspective of Kim’s writing process.

The existing studies analyzed Kim’s poems through a direct incorporation of musical terms, used such analysis as a frame for looking at the poems’ forms, and viewed the space represented through music as a denial of reality. On the contrary, this study uses a psychoanalytic theory, focuses on the music’s influence on the writing process, and views the musical world as a complicated space with a blurry differentiation from reality.

The core of investigating music’s influence is defining the relationship between Kim and dead artists, represented through the dichotomous division between reality and the “far” world of music in the earlier poems and the blurred division in later poems. For this purpose, the study uses Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe‘s theory on the mutually generative relationship between the musical compulsion and the autobiographical compulsion. However unlike Thedore Reik (Lacoue-Labarthe’s subject of study) who derived the conclusion of music’s un-theorizable characteristic, Kim was aware of this characteristic during his writing process. Additionally unlike Reik who competed with his teacher, Kim befriended the dead artists and even death itself. Such changes in Kim’s later poems are related to the poet’s diverted attention from the musical world to reality, focusing on his own death and his consciousness as a poet."